Walkmen, Golem, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Sept. 12, 9 p.m. 2008

Four years ago I gladly would’ve put real money on the Walkmen getting totally huge. Their sophomore album, Bows and Arrows, was shambling, hooky postpunk that managed to be both swaggering and nervy; the distilled essence of urban decadence and spiritual exhaustion that suffused the music was cut with a couple of sweet, unguarded ballads, and “The Rat” climbed onto my short list for best rock single of the new century after just a couple listens. Luckily I didn’t put that money on their next record, because A Hundred Miles Off replaced city grime with a sepia-toned retro-troubadour vibe, complete with mariachi horns, and that’s just not a very popular formula at all. On the new You & Me (Gigantic) they seem to have ditched the cowboy fantasy, trading in the buckskin-jacket nostalgia for three-button-suit nostalgia. Uncharacteristically restrained and sparse, slathered in reverb, and dominated by Hamilton Leithauser doing his best attempt at a croon, the album feels like the Walkmen imagining a smoky basement club full of sharp-dressed couples huddled over little round cocktail tables. It’s lovely and sad, the kind of record that’s so much better with the lights off. —Miles Raymer

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